Jovita Neliupšienė: Lithuania the role of an “mediator” of Eastern neighbours inside the EU

Exclusive interview Chief Adviser to the President of the Republic of Lithuania.


1. Would you please characterize current participation of Lithuania in Baltic dimension of European integration?


In few words – as very intensive and productive. Cooperation with the Nordic and Baltic partners is one of Lithuania’s foreign policy priorities; therefore Lithuania invests significant effort in strengthening both the political dialogue and practical cooperation with our friends and partners to the North and across the Baltic Sea.


What makes us natural allies and partners is not only the fact that we are quite similar in terms of territory and population, but also because our interests as well as the challenges we face are often the same. I would call it convergence of interests. This is why even without prior coordination, the steps taken by Nordic and Baltic governments during the economic and financial crisis were quite similar. 


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One of the main tools to strengthen cooperation in this area has been the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8) Cooperation. Lithuania has just finalized its role as coordinator of this cooperation, with energy security, regional security, cooperation with Eastern partners on top of our agenda. 


Regular meetings between the so-called NB6 (Nordic and Baltic countries that are members of the European Union) before each European Council meeting help to promote better understanding between us on issues of common concern, but also make our efforts to advance the shared interests more efficient. 


2. How do you assess the state and prospects of the European Union's "Eastern Partnership" and participation of Lithuania in it? 


Lithuania is a country on the Eastern border of the EU, so it is natural that we are more informed about the situation in the neighboring countries; we are specifically interested in healthy relations both on bilateral as well as on European level. The Eastern Partnership format was created on the idea of common norms, values and shared vision. And it should remain so.


By all means, this format offers Eastern neigbours the possibility to have easier movement of people, deeper economic association, which is mutually beneficial. However, intensity and efficiency of cooperation mostly depends on the political will and readiness of partner countries.  We expect the Eastern Partnership summit, planned in Vilnius on November 28-29 next year, to be an important practical step in achieving common goals.


3. In this respect, to your mind, what are the certain successes of Lithuanian diplomacy in post-soviet area, especially in South Caucasus and Central Asia regions?


Anywhere to the East from Lithuania, be it Ukraine, Georgia or Kazakhstan, we see number success stories in terms of economic development, state building and in some cases - civil society engagement. What is Lithuania’s input to that should be evaluated by our partners, not by ourselves. But it is no exaggeration to say that people in these countries see Lithuania as an example which is worth to follow. Lithuania is in a favorable position to share its own experience of transformation and European integration. Our customs service is well known in Moldova and Ukraine; quite a few Lithuanian municipalities have shared their experience with Georgia, and many more others. Some even subscribe to Lithuania the role of an “advocate” of Eastern neighbours inside the EU. But a more appropriate definition would be a “facilitator” or “mediator”. Since we aim to persuade our partners in the East that the European way of doing business is not “zero-sum”, but “win-win” solutions that make no compromises with respect to the fundamental values and principles of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and transparency.